GSBS Student Publications


A chromatin landmark and transcription initiation at most promoters in human cells

GSBS Program

Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology

UMMS Affiliation

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Cell Differentiation; Cells, Cultured; Chromatin; Chromatin Immunoprecipitation; DNA Methylation; Embryonic Stem Cells; Gene Expression Regulation; Histones; Humans; Lysine; Multigene Family; Nucleosomes; Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis; *Promoter Regions (Genetics); RNA Polymerase II; *Transcription Initiation Site; *Transcription, Genetic


Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


We describe the results of a genome-wide analysis of human cells that suggests that most protein-coding genes, including most genes thought to be transcriptionally inactive, experience transcription initiation. We found that nucleosomes with H3K4me3 and H3K9,14Ac modifications, together with RNA polymerase II, occupy the promoters of most protein-coding genes in human embryonic stem cells. Only a subset of these genes produce detectable full-length transcripts and are occupied by nucleosomes with H3K36me3 modifications, a hallmark of elongation. The other genes experience transcription initiation but show no evidence of elongation, suggesting that they are predominantly regulated at postinitiation steps. Genes encoding most developmental regulators fall into this group. Our results also identify a class of genes that are excluded from experiencing transcription initiation, at which mechanisms that prevent initiation must predominate. These observations extend to differentiated cells, suggesting that transcription initiation at most genes is a general phenomenon in human cells.

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Citation: Cell. 2007 Jul 13;130(1):77-88. Link to article on publisher's site

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